Only a woman with an iron backbone could succeed as an undertaker in Victorian London, but Violet Morgan takes great pride in her trade. While her husband, Graham, is preoccupied with elevating their station in society, Violet is cultivating a sterling reputation for Morgan Undertaking. She is empathetic, well-versed in funeral fashions, and comfortable with death’s role in life—until its chilling rattle comes knocking on her own front door.
Violet’s peculiar but happy life soon begins to unravel as Graham becomes obsessed with his own demons and all but abandons her as he plans a vengeful scheme. And the solace she’s always found in her work evaporates like a departing soul when she suspects that some of the deceased she’s dressed have been murdered. When Graham’s plotting leads to his disappearance, Violet takes full control of the business and is commissioned for an undertaking of royal proportions. But she’s certain there’s a killer lurking in the London fog, and the next funeral may be her own.
Equal parts courage, compassion, and intrigue, Christine Trent tells an unrestrained tale of love and loss in the rigidly decorous world of Victorian society.
Praise for the novels of Christine Trent
"Genuinely engrossing...with a rare Regency heroine who loves her work and does it well." Publishers Weekly on By the King’s Design
“Exuberant, sparkling, beguiling…brims with Dickensian gusto!” --Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen’s Lady on The Queen’s Dollmaker
“Winningly original…glittering with atmospheric detail!"
--Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Affairs on The Queen’s Dollmaker
1. The Victorian era was a period of rapidly changing technology
and social hierarchies. What evidence do you find of
this in the book?
2. Although every profession has its bad apples, undertaking
was a particularly reviled industry in the Victorian era. Why
do you think this was so?
3. How did Victorian undertaking practices in England differ
from what is done now? Are there Victorian practices that
you would like to see performed once again?
4. In Victorian England, it was considered important to journal
the final days of a loved one as a memorial and keepsake for
posterity. Why do you think this was considered important?
Why do you think this has fallen out of favor today?
5. Graham was determined to become a part of society, one of
the new “self-made” men who came to enjoy substantial
prosperity in Victorian England. Was this a realistic goal to
achieve? What were some of the ways Graham sought to
rise in society that we still embrace today?
6. How would you describe Violet and Graham’s marriage?
Would you say it was more or less typical than most marriages
of the time? What were some of the challenges Violet
faced as she struggled to keep her marriage together?
7. Conversely, consider the marriage between Albert and Victoria.
What do you admire about it? What weaknesses lay
8. The workhouse was one of the ways in which the Victorians
attempted to address the needs of England’s poor. Compare
and contrast the workhouse to some of today’s social programs.
In what ways was the workhouse better or worse?
9. What was your reaction when you read that Violet brought
Susanna home to live without first consulting Graham?
10. What surprised you the most about British attitudes toward
and involvement in the U.S. Civil War?
11. Was the British government right to be outraged by the taking
of two Confederate diplomats, Mason and Slidell, from
RMS Trent? Was their insistence on neutrality in all waters
at all times realistic and/or enforceable?
12. After Albert’s death, Victoria remained in mourning for the
rest of her life, even choosing to be buried in her wedding
veil. Yet she later developed a special attachment for a servant
by the name of John Brown, with whom many people
claim she had an affair. Do you think Victoria had an affair,
or was this purely a platonic relationship?